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WHAT WE THINK
Huge protests show the potential for deepening the movement
End of the Bush Doctrine?

September 30, 2005 | Page 3

HUNDREDS OF thousands of antiwar protesters turn out as George W. Bush's opinion polls drop. Diplomacy is offered in place of war on Axis of Evil member North Korea. The European Union is forced to retreat from its U.S.-backed threats to get tough on the nuclear program of another member of the "axis," Iran.

Is the Bush Doctrine of pre-emptive warfare finished? And can the antiwar movement prevail in getting the U.S. out of Iraq?

Certainly, world politics looks a lot different from the one promised by George W. Bush's neocon strategists. The White House's predictions of warm welcomes and cheap oil in Iraq have long since been replaced by grim intelligence predictions of a deepening resistance and incipient civil war--the product of the occupation's rewiring of Iraqi politics along sectarian lines.

Designed as the first installment of a plan to "remake" the Middle East in Washington's neoliberal, free-market, pro-Israel image, Iraq has instead generated a crisis for U.S. imperialism so great that retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey predicts the "wheels will come off" of the U.S. Army in an indefinite occupation.

Iraq's constitutional process, kept alive only by backroom deals that circumvented the legal process imposed by the occupation itself, may gain approval in an October 15 referendum, but only at the cost of deepening the divide among Kurds, Shiite and Sunni Muslims.

An incident in Basra involving Washington's British sidekicks highlighted the contradictions facing the occupation.

Two heavily armed British Special Forces soldiers were arrested September 19 in the Shiite city of Najaf after impersonating members of the Shiite Mahdi Army of cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, an opponent of the constitution whose forces have clashed with the U.S. and British military at various points.

The British military used tanks to smash into a police station, retrieving the men and accusing the police of being penetrated by Sadr's militia. Sadr's forces--who clashed with U.S. troops in Baghdad a few days later--claim the two soldiers were planning to kill large numbers of Shiites, and blame it on Sunni extremists to foment tensions.

The British undercover operation, along with death squads trained by the U.S. to assassinate suspected members of the resistance, show the Iraqi government for what it is: window dressing for an imperial outpost.

Those who claim that the occupation is preventing a civil war in Iraq have it backward. The occupation is itself fueling what one British soldier told reporters could be a "desert Bosnia."

It's this mess that forced the Bush administration to eat crow and accept the Clinton administration's framework for negotiating with North Korea: assistance for a peaceful nuclear power program in exchange for disarmament.

The U.S. also kept quiet after the European Union backed down on its threat to report Iran's alleged nuclear weapons program to the United Nations Security Council, a move that could have triggered sanctions and a political-military confrontation. Even worse for Bush's hawks is the fact that Iran, once a target for regime change in the wake of the Iraq invasion, now has growing influence over the Shiite parties in the Iraqi government.

Yet even as the Bush scheme for Iraq unravels and his post-Katrina popularity tumbles, the Democrats refuse to take the initiative in calling for a U.S. exit from Iraq.

As Boston Globe columnist Joan Vennochi noted, "On Iraq, a big disconnect exists between what registered Democrats believe about the war and what elected Democratic officials and alleged party leaders like Howard Dean are willing to do...Forget about standing up alongside Michael Moore. Merely speaking up against the war in Iraq continues to terrify Democrats."

This stance reflects the calculation that it's wrong to be "soft on national security" in the wake of the September 11 attacks. But even more important is the fact that the Democrats share with Bush the framework of projecting and bolstering U.S. imperial power--as Hillary Clinton's recent hawkish speeches make clear.

To be sure, the Democrats package the U.S. empire differently than the arrogant Bush neocons. After becoming president in 1977, Jimmy Carter proclaimed that "human rights" would be the cornerstone of U.S. foreign policy, following the U.S. defeat in Vietnam. Two years later, he authorized U.S. intervention in Afghanistan to counter a Russian invasion, and he backed the doctrine of a winnable nuclear war in Western Europe. And it was Bill Clinton who rehabilitated U.S. military intervention on humanitarian grounds in Bosnia and Kosovo, presiding over a dramatic increase in U.S. militarization.

If the Democrats aren't willing to back the antiwar movement's demands to bring the troops home, it's because top party officials accept the idea that control of Iraq's oil is simply too important to the U.S. empire to give up.

Nevertheless, many prominent leaders in the antiwar movement are willing to ignore the Democratic Party's embrace of the imperial consensus. For example, Judith Le Blanc, a national co-chair of United for Peace and Justice and leading member of the Communist Party U.S.A., wrote in the Peoples Weekly World, "To end the war, we must build a bipartisan peace bloc in Congress that can set the date for troop withdrawal and force Bush and the Pentagon to end the occupation."

But such a strategy of orienting on both Democratic and Republican politicians to fix a date for U.S. pullout months--or years--down the road will only undercut the movement's demand for immediate troop withdrawal. It also gives ground on the crucial argument that the U.S., which went to war based on lies, has no legitimate reason for an occupation that will only add to death and destruction each and every day it continues.

British antiwar leader George Galloway's "Stand Up and Be Counted" speaking tour in the run-up to September 24 showed the potential both for reaching a new audience of people turning to active opposition to the war--and deepening the political discussion within the movement.

Galloway, as well as those who joined him at the podium, showed in their speeches how antiwar activists can make our case not only about the lies that the Bush administration used to get their war, but about the right of Iraqis to oppose the occupation--just as anti-colonial movements of the past have fought for liberation.

Coming back from the inspiring demonstrations of September 24, the tasks for activists are clear--build a movement with the size and energy needed to raise the pressure for the U.S. to get out of Iraq, so that Iraqis can determine their own future.

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